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Tom Kite flies high, takes lead



Published: Sat, June 11, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The 55-year-old could become the oldest winner in PGA Tour history.

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) -- Just days after failing to keep his U.S. Open streak alive, Tom Kite put himself in position to become the oldest winner in PGA Tour history.

The 55-year-old Kite sank a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole, bent his knees, punched the air with a fist and waved to the crowd to celebrate a 5-under 66 that put him on top of the leaderboard with a round to play in the Booz Allen Classic.

Kite's birdie -- his third in the last four holes -- broke a six-way tie and gave him a 10-under 203 total, one stroke ahead of Ernie Els, Stuart Appleby, Adam Scott, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Steve Elkington on a leaderboard that was gridlocked all day. Sixteen players are within two shots of the lead.

Earlier this week, Kite went to nearby Rockville and tried and failed to qualify for next week's U.S. Open -- a tournament he won in 1992 and hasn't missed since 1973. He hasn't won on the PGA Tour since 1993. His last Champions Tour victory was at the 3M Championship a year ago.

Last chance

Kite is playing the PGA Tour this year on a special one-time exemption available to players in the top 50 on the career money list. He has made just three cuts in 10 events on the regular tour.

"This is why I came back. This is the only reason that I took this little challenge to come back and play the tour, was to challenge myself, to see if I had what it takes to contend, to see if I have what it takes to possibly win a golf tournament," Kite said. "Needless to say, I'm enjoying the heck out of it, and I'll be having a blast out there tomorrow."

If Kite can hold on -- a daunting task considering the players on his heels -- he would surpass Sam Snead as the tour's oldest winner. Snead was 52 when he won the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open.

Kite has rounds of 68, 69 and 66 on the Blue Course at Congressional Country Club, which has been surprisingly tame after a storm softened the greens early in the week. Even so, the back nine can still be brutal, but that's where Kite made his move.

A 3-foot putt at the par-5 15th was followed by a 35-footer at No. 16. He was under a tree in the left rough with his tee shot at No. 17, but he able to get his approach to the front edge of the green to save par.

Only bogey

Kite's only bogey came early in the round after he landed in a greenside bunker at No. 4. He has had only one three-putt green in the entire tournament, and that came on Thursday at the long par-5 ninth.

Robert Allenby started the day leading the field by two strokes, but it didn't take long for congestion to hit the leaderboard. So what if one of your favorite golfers isn't near the top? Wait a minute, and he'll be up there.

At 4:09 p.m., for example, Els, Allenby, Appleby and Ben Crane were in a four-way tie for first, with 14 other players within two strokes. At 4:33 p.m., there was a six-way tie for first among Appleby, Allenby, Crane, Elkington, Westwood and Donald, with eight players one stroke behind.

Then, at 4:38, Kite sank the long putt at No. 16 to create another five-way tie for the lead. Seven minutes later, there was another six-way tie. Whew!




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